A team of food science students at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls took the top prize in the 2023 Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) New Product Competition with their “RootCurd” entry. Team members are (pictured L to R): Ashley Gruman, Yihong Deng, Kate Petersen, Anna Euerle, and Rafael Larosiliere.
RootCurd Team

There’s a new curd on the block, thanks to a team of food science students at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Their “RootCurd” entry took the top prize in the 2023 Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) New Product Competition, which challenged up-and-coming innovators to develop dairy-based products with calming properties.

This competition is a prime example of how dairy checkoff organizations such as Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW) and DMI strive to drive demand for dairy through innovation and promotion and invest in creating products that incorporate dairy in exciting new ways. Market research indicates growth potential for products that support mental and emotional well-being, especially among Gen Z shoppers.

“Our objective is to stimulate dairy product innovation to meet the changing marketplace needs with healthy and nutritious products,” said Rohit Kapoor, who is vice president of product research for DMI and manages this contest. “More important, this competition inspires the next generation of dairy scientists and innovators.”

The dairy community strives to meet evolving consumer expectations. Involving student competitors helps the industry stay ahead of trends.

Rooted in research

The winning entry impressed judges on both taste and its potential to scale. RootCurd incorporates ginger and lavender — ingredients known to have a calming effect — into a pudding-like snack. In the right conditions, an enzyme in ginger can coagulate milk. The tasty product was inspired by a traditional Chinese recipe. It’s a technique commonly used in desserts there, and it results in a texture between Greek yogurt and pudding.

“A single-serve cup of this delicious ginger-sweetened pudding is high in protein, providing 20 grams per serving,” explained Grace Lewis, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and Dairy Innovation Hub affiliate. “Dairy proteins have a bunch of branched-chain amino acids and beneficial compounds for muscle recovery and relaxation.”

Perfecting the pasteurization process took some trial and error. According to food science student Anna Euerle, her team found ginger to be a “finicky” ingredient.

“It's very temperature sensitive,” Euerle said. “We had multiple tests of our products where it did not set up.”

Her team also experimented with flavor levels to ensure the ginger and lavender combination wouldn’t overpower taste testers. Eventually, Euerle along with team members Kate Petersen, Yihong Deng, Rafael Larosiliere, and Ashley Gruman had a product they were proud to present to the judges.

An experienced product developer on the panel praised RootCurd for having a “soothing texture, warm aroma, and flavor that provided a relaxing effect.” RootCurd’s attributes hit the sweet spot for what younger consumers are seeking. It’s internationally inspired, convenient, and features the clean label and high protein content Gen Z craves. RootCurd is already a winner for Wisconsin Dairy.

For more information about your dairy checkoff, visit WisconsinDairy.org.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2023
August 10, 2023

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